Ocado and the big grocery chains naturally grab all the media attention and appear the only options for home delivered food. This is not the case.
There have been a number of organic food delivery companies that have cropped-up over recent years who supply nationwide and there is also the odd localised business.
One hyper-local operation is Hubbub that takes internet orders for the goods of eight stores centred on the Highbury-ish area of North London and then delivers them within a tight boundary.
Marisa Leaf founded Hubbub in late-2008 when she ran a successful trial and has since been slowly building the business in this very specific part of the capital.
The numbers are undoubtedly small (she wouldn’t reveal any financials whatsoever – apart from disclosing that the latest month-on-month sales for each of the shops was up between 30% and 40%).
The shops are carefully selected to offer a broad range of high quality goods – including fish from Fin & Flounder, meats from Frank Godfrey and vegetables and deli stuff from Barnsbury Grocer. Orders received by Hubbub are fed electronically to each store where the goods are packaged and then collected later that day. Each store’s goods are collated with that of the others before same-day delivery to customers within one-hour time slots.
The hyper-local aspect is a key USP for the business and Leaf is keen to retain just a small number of shops, and for deliveries to stay within a tight area, until she has fully tested the boundaries of demand in the current Highbury area. She admits that the pressures to accept orders from slightly further afield (like Crouch End) and to add more stores has been very tempting.
She reckons she could have signed up at least 100 retailers so far. But this would stretch the economics of the business, which as a start-up has to keep things tight. The back-end IT infrastructure cost a chunky £250,000 but it provides a scaleable platform for operating a similar localised model, in different areas.
The investors who stumped up for some of this outlay were earlier this year tapped for further funding and Leaf says she raised four-times the initial round (we don’t know what that is). This is to be used to bump-up marketing activity and recruit further employees to the existing team of four.
This business is clearly in no way similar to Ocado nor to the food delivery set-ups of the major supermarkets. For that reason alone it is a very welcome alternative – especially for those people who really do value and support their local stores and don’t just talk about it.